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Leaders, Make Your Presence Known:  Don’t Be Boring

Physician leaders who want to command their stage, inspire their followers, and get things done can learn much from theatrical techniques.  This is not to say that good leaders are “faking it” or “acting”, but rather that good leaders are skillful in enlarging their personal presence in order to communicate what is in their heart.  Harriet Rubin, writing for Fast Company magazine in an article titled “Boring”, addresses what leaders can learn from acting method: 

“Leadership can be stressful. And during moments of pressure, people tend to close up. That's true for an actor onstage, as well as for a leader on whom all eyes rest. When we occupy a position that requires more of us than usual -- making a toast at a wedding, presenting to a committee of VCs, rousing a team or a board of directors -- we contract. Courage leaves us, and we deflate. The result is that we don't convey our ideas with conviction.  Leadership means selling yourself along with a promise -- of ideas, products, or missions. But all too often, when we have an idea or a product to sell, instead of rising to the challenge we shrink from it.  

In profiling the leadership-acting method of Philippe Gaulier in London, Rubin writes: “[Gaulier’s students are]  . . . studying a type of leadership that goes beyond the traditional requirements of being clear, motivational, and inspirational: The leadership that they're learning teaches people to go for the jugular. The principal -- the master -- is a clown. Philippe Gaulier, 57, makes sure that his school focuses on one essential objective: how not to be boring. Without knowing it, most of us are deeply boring. Deeply. And leaders are the most boring of all. What they don't understand is that being boring limits their power and undermines their effectiveness.” 

Playing a role does not undermine authenticity or honesty. It can mean acting as yourself with heightened energy and skill. To achieve that, follow these techniques that Gaulier recommends:

1.   Become a fixed point. Don't move around a lot when delivering your message. Effective movement may mean using only the gestures of complicity, such as bending toward your listeners conspiratorially. Or it may be as simple as adding a pause between lines.

2.   Be modest in relationship to your audience. Share your moments of suffering.

3.   Show pride in what you are saying and doing.

4.   Take pleasure in the game. Don't overact, says Gaulier: "If you act too much and don't show your pleasure, you won't succeed."

5.   Action is important. Bring your body into it. Don't expect words alone to carry your message.

6.   Face your listeners. Don't turn away from them or give them a profile: That will make you appear too remote, too snooty.

7.   Have fun with your voice. Vary its tone.

8.   Be subtle and light. Don't let your actions weigh you down.  

For the full article, follow this link to Harriet Rubin’s article, “Boring”, in the June 2000 issue of Fast Company. 

Francine R. Gaillour, MD, Business Consultant and Executive Coach for Healthcare Leaders francine@physicianleadership.com, (206) 686-4205


Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
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Francine R. Gaillour, MD   ©2006 Ki Health, Inc.